Springs training in Florida and Arizona have several differences though it could be said none of them are of major importance. Some of them affect the game itself and some of them affect things off of the field of play. A few of the ones that affect the on the field game in Arizona, compared to Florida, are altitude, humidity/”thin air”, hard/sun baked infields, which either has a batted ball go faster or further. Some of the things away from the fields would be in Arizona all of the team surround one city, Phoenix, there is no time change for daylight savings time and you don’t get the smell of sea salt on the breezes.
I have lived in Florida for several years and have been to Arizona several times over the years. I have been to all of the spring training sites in both states, a consolidated trip thru the Cactus League last year and currently returning to all of the sites in use in the Grapefruit League this year, so that I will be up to date on all of them. With that in mind there is another difference between the two locations. That being demographics. Which is within the bounds of what this blog is all about.
As with the on the field difference the off the field differences comes in small increments. Talking with people in the stadiums I can hear and see a very real difference between the leagues. The teams around a major metropolitan area, Phoenix, bring in a comparatively more robust, fast paced set of fans and stadium work force. With the spread out towns and cities of the Florida league there is a slightly different set of values and pace of life.
But where I hear the biggest difference seems to come from the history, mostly the history of baseball in Florida. There are decades of baseball memories still causing actions in Florida that never occurred in the Sonoran Desert.
The Detroit Tigers have had 80 years of spring training in the same town, Lakeland Florida. The City of Lakeland comes with an upper Midwestern accent, a lot of American made cars and even burial sites that get visited in February. Eighty years has given generations of baseball fans retiring at the same destination and 80 years of history.
The annual travel down to Florida to see their heroes playing ball on green grass while Michigan still had miniature snow packed mountain ranges lining the edges of the streets would have had a motivational impact on thousands of people for 80 years. Though I didn’t have the severity of the upper Michigan weather the siren call of subtropical weather and the gentle waves lapping up on the snow white sand beaches of west Florida also came calling to me in Missouri also.
Knowing that is in the background may add context to some of the post that follow.